Editor’s note: Today’s guest blogger is Jay McLean, CIO for Nexteer Automotive, a global leader in advanced automotive steering and driveline systems with a workforce of 9,800 people worldwide. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

At Nexteer, we’re focused on our craft of engineering steering and driveline systems for automobiles. Electric Power Steering, is an energy-efficient product powered by specialized software that is tuned to the manufacturers specific vehicle characteristics. It’s a highly technical product requiring collaboration across teams of skilled engineers. Having the most innovative technology, like Google Apps, is one of the ways we’ve found to attract skilled, energetic engineers.

In addition to providing employees with features like better email search capabilities, mobile access to email and documents, and easy collaboration, we wanted to eliminate the cost of buying, setting up and maintaining servers. We looked at hosted Microsoft® Exchange and LotusLive, as well as Google Apps, but Google was clearly the best option.

We factored in monthly cost per user for email and collaboration, as well as easy, any-device mobility. Because we have offices and manufacturing plants all over the world, we have a lot of employees who need access to information wherever they may be working from, and it took extensive work and considerable cost to support VPN access. We wanted an easier and more affordable way to support our global teams.

With the help of Google Apps partner, Salvair, we switched 4,200 users to Google Apps over a four month period in 2009 and haven’t looked back. As a technology-focused company, Google Apps allows us to be ahead of the curve for the automotive industry, with access to the newest features as they become available. In the year and a half we’ve been on Google Apps, we’ve seen new features like priority inbox, the option to have threaded or un-threaded email, and great interoperability among multiple devices and platforms. Access to that pace of innovation is something only Google Apps could offer.

Since moving to Google Apps, we’ve cut cost of email and collaboration by 64% and we’ve easily reduced VPN costs by about 50% – all because people no longer need to go through VPN to get their email. We were also able to eliminate servers and maintenance costs required to support our internally hosted solutions.

With Google Apps we’re able to get things done faster. Instead of scheduling meetings or emailing back and forth, we’re able to use Google Talk to work across time zones and quickly get answers from co-workers. The search functionality in Gmail helps us find what we’re looking for faster and the increased inbox size lets us store that information, knowing we’ll be able to find it when we need it.

Our end-users are happy and the calls to the help desk related to email have dropped off substantially. Our IT workload is far less, and we are avoiding the cost of buying and maintaining servers, as well as the costs of VPN access. With Google Apps, we have reduced costs, increased productivity, and benefited from a constant stream of innovation.